After Auburn softball beat Florida last night, 1-0, there was a weird little skirmish between Tigers player Haley Fagan and Gators coach Tim Walton during the handshake lineup. As Fagan got to the end, Walton hit her on the shoulder because Fagan did not have her hand up. It's hard to say who was doing what intentionally here. Did Fagan leave her hand down so as not to high five Walton? And did Walton notice that Fagan's hand was not up but just chose to hit Fagan's shoulder anyway. It's all pretty bizarre.
Fagan did not appreciate the gesture and shoved him in the back, which led to a confrontation. Walton played innocent when Fagan appeared to ask him why he shoved her. You can see Walton mouth, "I didn't hit you." Someone on Florida then appeared to start chirping at Fagan and she got a little more heated before finally being restrained by her teammates.
So, what's behind all this? There is history between Walton and the Fagan family, as Haley's two younger sisters, Kasey and Sami were at one time Gator softball players. In 2012, according to the their father Kevin Fagan, the sisters—who were lineup stalwarts for that squad—were dismissed from the team along with another everyday player, Cheyenne Coyle, for some kind of undisclosed altercation. He told the Gainesville Sun at the time that "The team sort of divided and Walton felt like it was in his best interest to get rid of those three."
Walton, for his part, made the decision while the Gators were making a run at the College World Series, but never said why.
"It's something that I handled and handled as well as I could and as well as I'm capable of handling,'' Walton said afterward. "I'd be crazy to say it didn't affect the team.
"A team is a team and you work hard from the beginning of the season. Any kind of departure of any person on this team not in that lineup or not on this field is a distraction, no question."
Without the three, Florida lost their first round game against Florida Gulf Coast University. But that bit of schadenfreude was apparently not enough to bury the Walton-Fagan rivalry and it flared back up last night with at least two of the three involved in attendance: Kasey Fagan and Cheyenne Coyle are now graduate assistants at Auburn.